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Nightmare Sinema Dispute
May 12, 2008
Arts and Culture - Link to Audio

May 12, 2008 

The latest effort to bring campy old-time horror movies back to late-night Detroit television has had a bumpy beginning.  WDET’s Pat Batcheller reports. 

Nightmare Sinema debuted on Channel 20 in March after a successful run on cable access.  But after just five shows…it went off the air last month.  Part of the reason is Pistons playoff games…which forced the station to move pre-empted prime time shows into Nightmare Sinema’s Saturday overnight time slot.  But creative and legal differences have also caused a nasty split between the show’s principal figures—its host Wolfman Mac…and its original production company…Darkhaus Sound and Film.  Both parties agree that Darkhaus created and owns the show’s key production elements…including its theme song.  It’s also responsible for the quick edits that gave the show its edgy look.    But that’s where the two sides part company.   Darkhaus founder Glenn Kirkland says he stopped producing the show because Wolfman Mac—whose real name is Mac Kelly—owed Kirkland money for the previous episodes and refused to sign a service contract.

“And out of the blue a lawyer got ahold of us with a bunch of weird threats and stuff, and so he took all the money he was making off the show…and he claims he hasn’t made any money, but he has made money, we can prove it.”

Mac Kelly insists that neither he nor anyone else has made any money on the show.  Its cast and crew are volunteers…and Kelly buys the air time from Channel 20…which declined comment on the legal dispute.  Kelly says Glenn Kirkland’s contractual demands were unreasonable.

“We didn’t at all disagree that he should be compensated.  It’s just that we…gosh…I mean we couldn’t by any means do it in the time frame that he wanted.”

Kelly has agreed not to use any of Kirkland’s production elements…but that does not end their feud.  Each claims ownership of the Wolfman Mac character…which Kelly says he and his wife developed while tossing about ideas for an appropriate host.

“She said, you know, well you’re a DJ…what about, because of Wolfman Jack…what about Wolfman Mac?  I said yea, that sounds great.”

Glenn Kirkland says the wolfman was his idea…and accuses Mac Kelly of stealing the character.

“We actually wrote the Wolfman Mac character.  I have all the footage of him reading our scripts and stuff and with him with his funny make up on that we put on him and stuff…as Mac Kelly as Wolfman Mac.”

Kirkland says he feels so betrayed that he is actively trying to keep Nightmare Sinema off the air permanently.   He also plans to resurrect Psychotic Sinema…with an animated host called Wolfman the Hack…a not-so-subtle jab at his ex-partner.   Kirkland says his show will be darker…and not as cheesy.

“Psychotic Sinema played a lot more off-kilter horror things…instead of like all the popular Vincent Price ones…we’d give you old public access stuff that you rarely see…really rare stuff…but still it’s creepy, they’re classics, you know.”

As for Nightmare Sinema…Mac Kelly says it will return to Channel 20 this weekend…without the Darkhaus effects.

“A brand new theme song, a brand new intro, we’re gonna have, you know, a new look…I guess you could say that it’s…it’s gonna flow a lot easier.”

Meanwhile, the split between Mac Kelly and Glenn Kirkland remains unresolved.  Both men have hired lawyers…but neither has gone to court yet.  Stay tuned.

This is Pat Batcheller, WDET News   

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